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My name is Lori. In August, 2014, I plan to hike the Camino de Santiago trail. Feel free to join me on my adventure by following me on this blog.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The last week has been a strange one. After leaving hot springs, I went a little crazy. My legs turned into little hiking machines. I did a couple 20 mile days, some very quick miles, and in turn my body is telling me to slow down! I have a bit of a strain in the front of both ankles, which I am pretty sure is shin splints. My Achilles tendons are also speaking up a little. The knees are also tender.  I think I better stick to 15 mile days a bit longer.
Weather has been crazy too. On April 22, I got up early to begin my day. I accidentally didn't seal my water bladder well enough, and ended up spilling a liter of water inside my backpack and tent. It was the wrong day to make this mistake, because as it turns out, we would have to walk in a rainy cloud all day. We could only see about 15 feet ahead through the thick cloud, and it got very cold. I actually had ice crystals on my rain jacket. I was getting pretty concerned about hypothermia. Temps were forecasted below freezing, and expecting snow. 10 miles into my planned 29 mile day, I decided it was time for a new day. I was wet, cold, miserable, and on the verge of tears. I needed to get myself off the trail. There was a road crossing at about 15 miles where I could catch a shuttle to a hostel. I made the call, and now I had a little over 2 hours to hike 5.6 miles and make the 4 o'clock shuttle. The trail was a muddy and slippery. I went as fast as I could, and even jogged the flat parts, trying to pick up speed (not a good idea with a 35 lb pack on your back. My knees hate me for that part). I made it to the road crossing ten minutes after 4. I popped out of the woods to see a man standing beside his car. "I made it!", I said. He looked at me and said, "you need a ride?" I realized that this man was not my shuttle. My shuttle actually came early and left already. The man in front of me explained that he is a taxi driver, and was just leaving cards with his number at the crossing. He apologized that he wasn't in his taxi, but his regular car. He didn't expect to be picking anyone up.
Crap! Should I take a ride from this guy? Is he gonna try to kill me? I called the hostel to verify that they had indeed left me and it would be 45 min before they could come back. I was cold enough to be shivering at this point. I was soaking wet, and the rain just got worse. I examined my situation. The driver was severely out of shape (consistent with someone who drives for a living, right?), and he had another older guy with him who seemed to have a bad hip. I thought to myself, "I'm in pretty good shape. If these guys try anything, I'm sure I could take them both". I slid my pepper spray off my backpack strap and slipped it into my pocket, threw my pack in the trunk and got in the car. The guy went on about how god must have put him in that spot just to help me out. Meanwhile, I opened the GPS on my phone, knowing exactly where the hostel was. My right hand in my pocket with finger on pepper spray trigger, and my left hand controlling my phone. I was able to see he was taking me down the right road. Whew! He only charged me $10, and the hostel would have charged $25. I was scared to death, but I decreased my risk of hypothermia. Crisis averted. (Just so I'm clear kids, it is not safe to get in a strangers car! Don't do this at home. This was a very specific circumstance). I arrived in the hostel store entrance just as my first tear since getting on trail arrived on my cheek. The hostel was full. The guy across the counter said, "Honey, why don't you go take a warm shower, so you can feel better, and we will figure something out for you". I ran into Snail in the shower room and got a much needed hug. I also got talking to the lady showering in the next stall, and realized it was my friend, bright flower. Once I was clean and warm (and much happier), I went back to the office. They told me they got something fixed up for me. It wasn't a regular room. It was back by Grims room (the guy who runs the hostel with uncle Johnny) it had been used for employees before, but most recently was a storage closet. It had a bed, a TV, VCR, a really worn out old small couch, and a microwave. Grim put clean sheets on the bed, and brought in a space heater, and a DVD player with his personal collection of DVDs. The room wasn't very clean, but became very cozy for the night. I nicknamed it the Harry Potter room. Grim also had a little puppy who proceeded to scratch on my door until I let him in and cuddle for a while. The next day, Grim drove me to Spivey gap, where I had exited the trail the night before, and I hiked the 11 miles back to the hostel in the snow. I met up with Balls and Sunshine, and enjoyed their company for the last half of the hike. It only took me 4 hours, and grim called me a crazy Viking. I was moved into a regular cabin that day. Funny thing is that the bed in the closet was more comfy than the one in the cabin. Haha! For the following three days, me, sparky, and voltron slackpacked and stayed in hostels. Slackpacking is when you only carry a small day pack with necessary food, water, and gear for the day. Sparky's brothers were in town, so they would drop us off at one point on the trail and pick us up at another, then take us back to the hostel to have a warm shower and bed. This was great for us because the weather has been so bad. Many hikers have been held up in hostels.

 We did 20 miles one day which involved hiking in slush while it was snowing, the next day, it didn't snowfall on us, but our elevation was high enough that we were hiking in thick snow/muddy slush for 15 miles. Our last day, we had skipped ahead to mountain harbor hostel in Roan, TN. It is a very cozy hostel above a barn. Looks were very deceiving, as we arrived and saw a goat sitting at an open door just below the hostel. I thought for sure we were going to be sleeping with stinky barn animals. The hostel is actually really nice. Its kind of like an apartment above the barn, but separate from seeing or smelling the animals. We had to wait out a very vigorous thunder storm to pass. This days hike is about 15 miles on a ridge line.  Not the safest place to be with lightening. We got started around noon. This day should have been full of beautiful views, but we were in a cloud the entire day, with sometimes only a 20 foot visibility. My left foot had hurt by the end of the last two days, and by the end of this day, I had shin splints in both ankles. It was very painful for the last 6 miles of the day, which happened to be a downhill full of slippery mud and boulder scrambles. I kept telling Sparky and Voltron to go on ahead of me because I was going so slow, but they refused to leave me. Our hike ended at the hostel at 6:45.
I didn't get much sleep last night worrying that I wasn't going to be able to walk the next day. Fortunately, though I was a little sore, I was able to walk just fine. We had an excellent breakfast made by Mary who runs the hostel (and B&B in their cute country home) I ate Irish oats, eggs, French toast with honey and walnuts, sweet roll, strawberries, pineapple, blackberries, whipped cream, hash browns, tea, and orange juice. I think it was the best breakfast I have ever had in my life! The regular B&B guests were probably in awe at how much us hikers could eat! Hahaha!! After breakfast, I decided to hike on as long as my shins could take it. Voltron decided to take a slow day with me. We hiked 13.6 miles at a slow steady pace. It really helped that the trail was not as difficult as the last week has been. We took several breaks, and are camped out at a cozy spot right alongside the trail. I could have chosen to stay at the hostel for a zero day, but had planned on doing that at the next hostel as I was receiving a package which contained some permethrin to spray all my clothes. Permethrin is an insecticide to keep ticks away, and I will do this every 6 weeks.
We just have 11 miles to hike to the next hostel tomorrow, and then I can give my body a much needed rest!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

One month down, five to go! We had a 6 day wilderness stretch since Gatlinburg. 6 days is difficult for many reasons. First of all, you have to carry 6 days worth of food, making your backpack turn into "the red monster". That is the trail name my backpack is referred to now. The longer the stretch, the heavier the monster. It also means 6 days without a proper shower. Bathing in a stream in the cold weather is a bad idea for me. Nobody ever died of being stinky, but many people die of hypothermia every year. My only way of bathing on the trail has been by re-wetting dried baby wipes and having a sponge bath. It has also been too cold at night to hang dry clothes, so my clothes got pretty stinky too, since I couldn't wash them. 
In the smokey mountains, you must sleep in a shelter unless it is completely full. No tenting is allowed otherwise. This means having to sleep with snoring hikers, mischievous mice, and a very hard floor. Not to mention no privacy for said sponge bath! I loved the hiking in the last couple days of the smokeys, but was glad to be done with the park so I could sleep in my tent. I didn't realize how comfortable the ground could be until I spent 4 nights straight in a shelter. With that said, the shelters in the smokeys (not including the last one-davenport shelter) are all pretty awesome looking and convenient. 

I had a question Regarding my food choices and how it is working out. For breakfast, I packed oatmeal and pop tarts. I am getting sick of oatmeal, but find the pop tarts very tasty (I know, weird)  and convenient. I like to dip it in my hot chocolate. I got rid of my oatmeal last time and replaced it with instant breakfast, which I drank warm like hot cocoa. It tastes fine with water instead of milk. I also got some dry cereal to munch on, which was a great snack. I eat gorp (trail mix) during the day. I have a zone bar for lunch, and cheese on some wasa crackers. At cold temps, my cheese lasted 4-5 days. I also like tortillas with individual tuna salad packets, which Sparky convinced my to try. For dinner, I have enjoyed my meals from packlitefoods.com they are pretty tasty. 
For the first 3 weeks on the trail, I didn't have a big appetite, so I stopped carrying as many snacks and treats. The last three days of this last stretch, I got my appetite. I was starving!! Treats are going back in the inventory! Something must have changed in that 4th week, because not only did I feel the hunger, but I dropped more weight in that 6 days than I did in the entire 1st 3 weeks. 
On April 14th, we caught up to our buddy Voltron, or should I say he took a slow day so we would catch up. He hiked with us for the rest of the week, but left Hot Springs today.He will be doing some big miles to get ahead of us, then he will be taking a week off for a wedding, and then hopefully catch us afterwards. Snail and turtle camped with us every night too. Poor snail, which we now call "running snail" has a sore ankle, and will not hike with us this week. She is going to skip ahead to the next town for rest and wait for us. I am still hiking with Sparky, and was able to meet his wife Janet this week, as she flew in to visit in Hot Springs too. This week we also met some really nice section hikers including a high school group, and a boys group called 3D life. The boys were graduating from a troubled boys youth group. They were all very nice to camp with. It's nice to see young people doing parts of the trail, and their leaders are very inspirational. 
On the 15th, we camped again with Seth and Norman from Pennsylvania, who still don't have trail names yet. I am working on it. We like them, and hope to run into them again soon. We also camped that night with the "wolf pack". That is a large group of hikers who always camp together and spend time in towns together. They have quite the bad rep on the trail for being destructive party animals. They were fine with us, and we enjoyed their company. Unfortunately for them, their reputation proceeded them in Hot Springs, and some of the hostels wouldn't allow them in. Weather the rumors are true or not, they are trying hard to make a better name for themselves. As far as I'm concerned, they shared their cookies with me, so they are friends of mine! Haha
Our last night before Hot Springs, me, Sparky, Voltron, Turtle, and Snail had a nice campsite to ourselves. We gad a great campfire, and my tent was an a very comfy soft patch of leaves. It was my birthday, and I hadn't had cell service for two days. I was bummed that I couldn't talk to Chris and my family, but it was so nice to be with my hiker family. Snail and Turtle always make me laugh, but Turtle is the biggest clown of all. Snail, however was cracking me up trying to steal Sparkys food all night. haha, we were all so hungry and almost out of food. 
The next morning, I was last out of camp at 7:45. It only took me 4 1/2 hours to hike the 12 miles to Hot Springs. It was an easy stretch of trail, and my hunger for ice cream made me go faster. As soon as I got into town, I stopped in the first restaurant. I had just run out of water and was thirsty. They only had vanilla ice cream and that wasn't gonna cut it, so I ordered a lemonade. I went to put my backpack on the porch, and a guy who had just pulled in on a motorcycle asked if I would join him and his buddy so they could ask about the trail. I sat and talked with them and they bought me lunch. They asked all about the trail and took lots of pictures. Haha. They were very nice, and didn't seem to mind that I smelled like wet garbage. Luckily the bathroom had a bottle of febreze, so I could at least spray myself down before lunch. 
I did my town chores; checked into my hotel, had an hour long soak in the tub, then a shower and washed my hair twice, did my laundry, did some shopping, and waited anxiously for Chris to arrive. I found out that a friend from a Facebook group was still in town, and was able to meet her in person after months of playing scrabble on my phone with her. It was so nice to finally meet Jan, AKA, "bright flower". Chris arrived just before 9, and my smile hasn't left my face since. It is so good to see him! Yesterday, we sat in the mineral hot springs for a very relaxing hour of private peace. He talked me into driving with him last night to a movie theater out of town. We saw a horror film called "cabin in the woods" of all things, right?!? Haha it wasn't so bad though. What was weird is the fact that I felt a little anxious being so far from the trail. I don't even know how to describe the feeling, but I felt very out of place. 
We have had breakfast every morning with the hiker family. Chris has been able to meet Sparky & his wife, Janet, Turtle & Snail, Longstride & Silvergirl, Voltron, Balls & Sunshine (who I finally met in person for the first time, but have been communicating for several months. Sunshine is Balls 13 year old daughter who also completed the PCT with him last year), part of the wolf pack, and several other hikers we pass by on the streets. It has been fun introducing him to everyone. Today I took Chris on a 6 mile hike of the AT with me so he can see what it's like. He's napping now, so I think it wore him out a little. haha. 
Since it was our first "zero" day yesterday, meaning we didn't hike any miles, I thought this treat was appropriate for me and Sparky

It has been such a nice break. I want to get back to the trail, but it will be hard to go and say goodby to Chris again. 

I almost forgot! Even though my body is getting smaller, it seems my feet are growing. I actually had to buy a new pair of shoes today a half size bigger. I was told to expect this, but i sure didn't expect it this soon! I have high arches, and they are already starting to drop, so I also got some really good inserts too. Hopefully I won't have clown feet by the time I am done with the trail!

Miles hiked: 279.8
Miles to go: 1904.4

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Day 21 on the trail. 3 weeks has actually gone by pretty quickly. A few days ago, we made it to Fontana, NC. We stayed at the Fontana lodge, which was a pretty nice place and had a great hiker rate. I shared a room with Renata (snail), and sparky shared with Clous (turtle). Longstride and Silvergirl also stayed at the lodge. It made for a great "trail family" Easter dinner. Here's the gang. 

Dennis (Incline), was also at the lodge that night. We had met him previously at the Aquone hostel. He hikes pretty fast, so we were glad to get to see him again. 
After Fontana, we put in our biggest miles so far. 13.8 miles on Monday, and 14.7 miles on Tuesday. We wanted to get some miles done quick so we could have a shorter hike today with more time to relax in town. 
Last night was our coldest night so far, and I hope we don't ever get colder. Forecast was for 21°, and I'm pretty sure it was correct. I had lots of layers on, and was in my zero degree sleeping bag by 7pm. I stayed warm enough. My water bottle besides me froze overnight. It was so cold this morning that I had to wait til about 8 o'clock before I would crawl out of my sleeping bag. We hiked on frozen ground to Clingmans Dome. This is the highest point on the AT with an elevation of 6643 ft. It also marks about 200 miles for us on the AT! What better way to celebrate than to come into town and sleep in a warm hotel for a night? This was made a quick possibility because Sparky's brothers met us at the dome for Sparky's birthday. Happy birthday sparky!!! 
When I arrived at my hotel, I ran into Wobbles and Voltron. I hadn't seen them since before Franklin, so it has been nice to catch up. We also ran into incline again and talked him into staying the night out of the cold. 
Of course, we need to get back to the trail tomorrow, and the cold will still be there. Brrr. Not looking forward to that cold again, but looking forward to getting to hot springs in 6 days. 
Send all your warm vibes my way, friends. Goodnight for now. 

Friday, April 6, 2012

Have you ever camped on the side of a railroad track like a hobo? I have! There were a bunch of us hikers who did last night due to every cabin and "legal" tent site being fully booked. We had a great time. It rained all night long, but we all stayed warm and dry. (better than hiking earlier in the day as we were attacked by a hail storm. That was fun. My only reaction was to laugh as we got pelted. The louder Sparky's ouches got, the more I laughed. I can't help it, I'm crazy)
Today's hike was not so much fun for me. Uphill all day. Booo! It was a difficult 10.5 miles. Tomorrow should be better. The best part of the day was this tree...

I was hoping that it was a magic tree, and when I went inside, I would find a place where all the uphills had an escalator, and the downhills were twisty slides. Turns out it was just a regular tree, but I still liked it.
We Have hooked back up with camping with Snail and Turtle the last couple nights. They are so inspiring to me. They are in their 70's, and have travelled all over the world. They were home in Germany one day last year and saw a national geographic episode on the AT, and just decided to do it. As long as they can do this, so can I!!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Aquone Cabin Hostel

Today was day 13 on the trail, though I won't be posting this until tomorrow. We chose to take an easy low mileage day and have a rest at the Aquone cabins hostel. I knew this place was going to be nice, but it far exceeds my expectations. This, I am sure, will be the nicest place we see along the trail. We don't have phone service here, which is why I won't post this blog until I find service on the trail tomorrow. Steve "wiggie" & Maggie are the awesome couple who run the hostel along with other cabins they rent out. This is their hostels first year. They are so generous. They provide a phone and computer in the office. They also make us dinner! Dinner tonight was salmon for me, ham for Sparky, along with mashed potatoes, veggies, and bread Breakfast and lunch is also an offered option here. They offer a service called "slackpacking", which means they provide small backpacks to just carry some water and snacks. We will use this service tomorrow to hike 13.5 miles without our heavy packs, and get picked up again to stay here tomorrow night. What a deal! Can you believe it is only $20 per night to stay here?!
I took a quick video tour for everyone to see the cabin. I will try to get it posted somehow, but it tells me now that it's too long.
We passed the 100 mile mark this week, so this place is a great reward. We will make it just short of mile 130 tomorrow!
We have been hiking with hikers named Snail & Turtle (you know them...my favorite people on the trail so far), Wobbles, Voltran, Cackles, Sasquatch, Puddle Jumper, Tree Piper, Longstride & Silver Girl (an awesome couple from Massachusetts), Crocakyle, dreamfinder, Backtrack, wiggles & Avabear (doggy), TP, Shrink, Tree, Shaddow, Black Top Bill, Psycho, Path, Laughing Dog, Mr Fabulous, Peach, Blue, Spiller, Ryan, and Stephanie. They all make up a bunch of characters who make the trail fun and interesting. Most of them passed us up today or we have passed us, but we will probably run into them again soon enough, and we will meet new characters soon.
I received 2 drop boxes and a card when I arrived at the hostel today. One box was my re-supply which I packed for myself (and had some extra added things from Kay) :) the other box, also thanks to Kay had my other pair of shoes and added treats. My feet will be so happy to loose the shoes I have had the last 2 weeks, and hopefully I will have an end soon to my achilles tendon issues. I have made it bearable by tying my shoes goofy and leaving the ankles loose. I bought new insoles. Sparky helped a lot by wrapping my ankle with moleskin for extra padding. I have also tucked gauze in the heel of the shoe to push my foot forward. For some reason my new shoes had a strange curve at the heel, that the rest of my shoes don't. Same brand, different style. Anywho...I know many of you have been worried about my tendon issue, so I will keep you posted, and things are definitely looking up!
The card I got today was a surprise from Chris's parents. His mom is a very talented craft master, and made me a very cute card. It made my day! Thanks so much Vicki and Dave!
I guess that's all for now. Sitting here in this lovely hostel looking out at the pouring rain and listening to the thunder (did I pick a great night for a hostel stay, or what!)...I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to be doing what I am doing!